If Injured in a Self-Driving Car Accident, Who Is Liable?

June 4 , 2021 | Personal Injury

The future of technology is pretty incredible to think about, and technological advances are being made nearly daily, sometimes leading to a self-driving car accident. While the idea of a self-driving car 20 years ago was far too futuristic to think realistically about, today, self-driving cars are already being tested on the roads and many cars on the market have autonomous features. Indeed, cars that are almost totally self-driving include some recent models of Tesla, Cadillac, Nissan BMW, Toyota, and more.

While the idea of a car that can drive and park itself may seem pretty awesome (and indeed, the technology is awesome), one thing that many drivers are worried about is a liability in an accident. If a self-driving car is involved in a crash, who’s liable for the damages that result?

At the Martin Law Office, S.C., we have experience working on a wide range of accident and injury claims, including car accident claims, vehicle defect claims, and product liability claims, If you or a loved one has been involved in a crash that featured a self-driving car, our lawyers are here to help you. Reach us today to learn more about liability and your rights.

Liability in a Self-Driving Car Accident

When a self-driving vehicle is involved in a crash, liability for the crash depends on fault–as it does with all car accidents, regardless of whether the vehicle is autonomous. With that being said, liability for the crash may rest with one of the following:

  • The driver of the autonomous vehicle. In some cases, the driver of the autonomous vehicle may be held liable for the crash. This may be the case when the driver failed to do something that they should have done, which therefore contributed to the crash. For example, paying attention to the roadway and bringing the vehicle out of autonomous mode and into manual mode may have been appropriate. Or, perhaps the vehicle required some sort of maintenance or tech update that the driver knew of and should have performed, but failed to.
  • The manufacturer of the vehicle. Sometimes, accidents occur because of a vehicle defect or malfunction. For example, as all drivers know, things like brakes, tires, and steering all need attention and maintenance and, sometimes, defects to these components can lead to a crash. With autonomous vehicles, in addition to the physical hardware of a vehicle, there’s also the software to consider; a defect in the auto-pilot technology could be catastrophic. If an autonomous vehicle is being operated as intended at the time of the crash but fails regardless, a vehicle/software defect may be to blame, and the vehicle manufacturer could be held liable.
  • The party who permitted the autonomous vehicle to be on the road. While less common, some companies are testing fully autonomous vehicles that are not yet available to general consumers. If a vehicle is in “test mode” on the road and an accident occurs, the company or party–such as the government entity that permitted the vehicle to be on the road–could be held liable.

Of course, with all accidents, there are a range of potential causes and therefore a range of potentially liable parties. The actions of a third-party driver, road defects, poor weather or road conditions, and more can all contribute to a crash and raise questions about who should be held legally responsible.

What to Do After a Crash with a Self-Driving Car

If you are involved in a crash with a self-driving vehicle, it’s important that you understand your rights and your options. Take the following steps to protect your right to file a claim and receive a settlement.

  • Call the police. Always report a car accident, even if damages don’t initially strike you as severe. If you don’t have a police report when seeking damages for a self-driving car accident, the insurance company will likely deny your claim.
  • Get medical care. After a crash, you must seek medical care. You should go to the hospital or your doctor’s office immediately after a crash. If you don’t seek care right away, the insurance adjuster may argue that your injuries are not related to the crash.
  • Report the accident to your insurance company. You should report the accident to your insurer within the first 24-48 hours. If you delay in reporting the crash, your insurer may have grounds to deny your claim.
  • Gather evidence. If you are able to gather evidence and the scene of the accident, such as the names of any witnesses, photos of the accident and damages, and notes about what happened, do so. If your injuries preclude you from gathering evidence, hire an attorney as soon as possible who can collect evidence on your behalf.
  • Don’t delay in hiring an attorney. After any type of car accident that results in damages, working with a personal injury lawyer in Oak Creek, Wisconsin is strongly recommended. After a self-driving car accident, though, hiring an attorney is even more greatly advised. Determining liability in a self-driving car accident can be complex and, without a good attorney on your side, you may have a difficult time holding the other driver or the vehicle manufacturer (or another party) legally responsible for your losses. Your attorney can gather evidence, work with accident reconstruction and vehicle design experts, calculate your damages, file your claim, prove liability, negotiate your settlement, and more.

Call Our Self-Driving Car Accident Lawyers in Oak Creek, WI Today

If you have been involved in a car accident, you deserve to be compensated for your losses. When a self-driving car accident occurs, determining liability may be especially complex, and having a trained attorney on your side can be critical in proving fault and recovering the settlement you deserve. At the Martin Law Office, S.C., our experienced self-driving car accident lawyers have a track record of excellence and a reputation for success.

We know how to navigate cases like these and always put our clients first. If you have been in a self-driving car accident, reach our personal injury lawyers in Oak Creek, Wisconsin today for your free consultation. Send us a message or call 414-856-4010 to get started.